Photo/IllutrationFans of Haruki Murakami read his latest novel, "Kishidancho Goroshi" (Killing Commendatore), soon after it went on sale at midnight Feb. 23. (Takayuki Kakuno)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Bookstores opened earlier than usual in a bid to make a killing.

Fans rushed out of their homes to grab a copy of the novel and read a few pages on their way to work.

And some were giving their opinion on Haruki Murakami's "Kishidancho Goroshi" (Killing Commendatore), a two-volume work, just hours after it went on sale.

It's the touted novelist's first full-length novel in four years. It's been massively anticipated. And Feb. 24 was the day of judgment.

The Yaesu Book Center's main outlet in front of JR Tokyo Station opened at 7:30 a.m., two hours and 30 minutes earlier than normal, to pull in commuters heading to nearby offices.

A special corner was set up near the main entrance and copies of the novel were stacked up there.

One 50-year-old company employee said he left home 30 minutes earlier than usual to stop at the bookstore and purchase the book.

"I came early because I wanted to read even a little just before work started," he said. "The unique title has heightened my expectations."

The title of the novel was about the only thing Shinchosha Publishing Co. publicized before stocking shelves, and the lack of even a hint about the plot likely led to increased excitement among fans.

Kunio Nakamura, 45, the owner of Rokujigen (sixth dimension), a book-themed cafe in Tokyo's Ogikubo district where many Murakami fans gather, pulled an all-nighter to complete the latest novel.

"In a word, it is a 'best hits album' of Haruki Murakami," Nakamura said. "Imagery that only Haruki can come up with can be found throughout the work. It is a treasure trove of metaphors. I recommend it even to first-time readers because the novel unfolds in a very smooth and rhythmical manner."

The novel revolves around an unknown portrait artist who moves from a condominium in Tokyo to an old house in the outskirts of Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture, after his wife asks for a divorce. Among the many questions the man faces in the course of the novel is the meaning of a painting he finds in the attic as well as the past of a man with the unusual family name of Menshiki, whom the artist comes to know.

Meanwhile, Murakami fans in the northern island of Hokkaido will have to wait at least another day before they get their hands on the novel.

A cargo train carrying copies of the novel derailed early Feb. 23 along the Muroran Line of Hokkaido Railway Co., pushing back the start of sales. An official of the publisher, Shinchosha, said the book would probably be in Hokkaido stores on Feb. 25.